Marketing to Millennials: Journey vs. Destination

The biggest group of home buyers in U.S. history are coming of age, and mortgage and real estate professionals need to learn how to work with them not only to be successful, but to remain relevant. Even though the assumption that this demographic would rent forever has faded, how to market to and capture Millennial customers seems to confound many companies and producers hoping to work with them. The truth is, Millennials want many of the same things the generations before them did – they just have a different way of interacting with companies and brands. Recognizing and understanding the way this huge population segment thinks and how they like to buy will help you build long-term relationships that boost production today and can pay off long into the future.

It’s All About the Journey

Millennials aren’t really elusive or difficult to work with, they just consume information and interact with brands differently. Dull, overly aggressive marketing campaigns don’t appeal to them: Today’s 35-and-under crowd is the most educated group of Americans in U.S. history with a full third of them having four-year college degrees, according to Pew Research.

The customer journey is longer for Millennials because they wait until much later in the buying cycle before they interact with a human. They generally begin the home buying process online and do their research using everything from their credit scores to property sites and online payment calculators. The reason many companies and producers fail at building relationships with Millennials is because they try to put a hard sell on them at a time when perhaps they’re just in the research phase. The key to building a relationship with these prospects is to add a ton of value with education-centric marketing and not expect an immediate return.

People like to nest, and Millennials are no different. Buying a home is a common goal as they get married and start families, but this group witnessed and was profoundly affected by the housing market crash of the late 2000s. They’ve also seen the recovery that has surpassed the peak, but they don’t accept homeownership as a given. Mortgage and real estate professionals need to reinforce why the instinct and desire to own a home makes good, economic sense. Have examples of why renting for one’s entire life rarely makes sense – and be able to back up the information you present. Millennials want to know why buying a home is a good idea and they want to see the data and research that will allow them to feel good about it.

The New Point of Sale

Millennials don’t generally ride around with Realtors to find homes like their parents did. It’s not uncommon today for Millennial buyers to have done so much research that they’ve focused on two or three homes they’re passionate about and want to see and walk into an open house without a relationship with a Realtor or a loan officer – ready to transact. This is why it’s important to be purposeful with your marketing strategy when targeting Millennials.  You can’t use the same materials or approach with other age groups, but providing meaningful information without a heavy sales pitch will build the connection that will allow you to be included in their process as these buyers get ready to make a move.

For lenders and Realtors, the transaction and closing was always the destination, but Millennials want to build long-term relationships with brands they trust – Apple is a great example of this. It’s important to engage with Millennials in a way that addresses them in the lifecycle as a buyer and long-term client rather than just a transaction as a final destination.   Start thinking of Millennials as a group who wants a long-term commitment… establish trust and credibility by adding value with the information they want and let them know you’ll be there when they’re ready.

Listen to Joe Welu discuss how loan officers and Realtors should be approaching and marketing to Millennials in his Expert Strategies podcast.